Yankees 6, Rays 1: New York clinches home-field advantage in the Wild Card Game behind Montgomery’s solid outing

With this win tonight, the Yankees have clinched home-field advantage for the AL Wild Card Game (if that becomes their destination). Also, with the Red Sox loss, the division deficit has reduced to three games. Slim hope but it’s still there. The recipe for tonight’s win was simple: Jordan Montgomery pitched well, the offense scored enough runs and the bullpen tossed three no-hit innings to make it as least stressful as possible. 88th win of the season – that’s the Yankees’ most since 2012, when they made it to the ALCS. Let’s recap this thing.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Six solid

Montgomery started the game dicey very early on. He allowed soft singles to Kevin Kiermaier and Steven Souza just past the infielders and walked Evan Longoria to immediately load the bases in the first. He got a breather by striking out Logan Morrison for the first out. However, Wilson Ramos drove a deep drive to right center that looked to be just going over the fence… until Aaron Hicks denied it. Hicks made a well-timed jump to rob Ramos of a grand slam. That would have been a devastating start for the Yankees but they held the Rays to merely a run. Huge. Not bad for a guy who just came off a DL suffering an oblique injury.

After the shaky start, Montgomery settled in and followed with five scoreless innings. In those frames, he allowed only five baserunners (one of them on a strike out wild pitch in which Adeiny Hechavarria reached first) and struck out three. He may not have the flashiest stuff, but boy he can mix up pitches. Per Brooks Baseball, Montgomery threw 34 fastballs (both two-seam and four-seamers combined), 8 changeups, 9 sliders and 29 curveballs. Of those 29, six of them generated whiffs. He’s had a nice season for a guy who’s a pitchability lefty in the AL East – 9-7, 3.96 ERA/4.11 FIP in 150 IP. Even though Montgomery’s had his ups and downs this season, if you told me he’d end up with these numbers back in March, I would have taken it ten out of ten times.

Thinking about it again… that Aaron Hicks catch was big. There’s a huge difference between getting out of the first inning with no outs, bases-loaded jam with only one run allowed and allowing a grand slam and suffering a meltdown for a start. Credit to Montgomery for bouncing back nicely for the rest of the night though.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Score four

You know how the Yankees have been making opposing starting pitchers throw tons of pitches in early parts of the game? That happened tonight as well. This time, they knocked Blake Snell out of the game with no out in the second inning.

The Yankees started the inning with a bang. Starlin Castro, who donned high socks tonight, led the inning off with a long, 445-feet home run into the left field bleachers to tie the game at one a piece. After that, the Fraziers and Ronald Torreyes all singled to load the bases in a flash for the Yankees. Hicks, fresh off the disabled list (and that amazing catch an inning earlier) walked to score the Yankees’ go-ahead run. At this point, Snell seemed to have completely lost his command. Even after the mound visit, Snell could not throw a strike against Aaron Judge and forced in another run, 3-1 Yankees. After getting only three outs and having throw 49 pitches, the lefty was out of the game and Kevin Cash put in the former Yankee Chaz Roe to face Gary Sanchez.

Sanchez squared one to the right side… but it found Hechavarria’s glove and Hicks was doubled off at the second. Not ideal. However, during Matt Holliday’s at-bat, Roe’s slider got away from Ramos way outside, resulting in a run-scoring wild pitch. Sloppy pitching by the Rays in this frame. But hey, the Yankees will take it.

Score two more

The scoreboard was full of goose eggs after the bottom of the second till the eighth inning. With Austin Pruitt pitching for the Rays, Torreyes worked a rare walk to get on base with one out. During Brett Gardner’s at-bat, Toe advanced to second on a wild pitch and onto third on a groundout. Judge, as Judge does, walked to get on base to make it runners on corners. Sanchez followed it up with an RBI single to center to make it 5-1 Yankees and Holliday tacked on another with a bloop one to the shallow center. 6-1 Yankees and that’s how the score would remain for good.

Leftovers

The Yankee bullpen tossed three perfect innings tonight. Tommy Kahnle got the seventh inning and absolutely dominated Daniel Robertson, Peter Bourjos and Kiermaier – groundout, strikeout, strikeout, respectively – all in just 11 pitches. Kahnle has yet to allow an earned run in the month of September (10 IP) and that’s a really good sign heading into the postseason.

Taking care of the eighth was David Robertson, who struck out one and walked one in a scoreless frame. It seemed like Aroldis Chapman was going to enter the ninth for a save. But as the Yankees scored two in the bottom of the eighth, the save situation became null and Joe Girardi put in struggling Dellin Betances to end the game. Betances retired the side in only seven pitches (four strikes) to end the game rather swimmingly. Sure, he didn’t strike out anyone or anything but I’ll definitely take this from him. This should be considered a positive step for the big guy after a rough month he’s had.

Castro went 3-for-3 tonight. His home run in the 2nd inning was his first at Yankee Stadium since June 11, as unbelievable as that might sound. Torreyes, the little machine that could, maintained his status as a solid utility guy by going 2-for-3, a walk and two runs scored. Judge did not hit a home run today. Bust! However, he did go 1-for-3 with two walks, a strikeout and an opposite-field double. It was almost an on-brand game for him.

Box score, video highlights, updated standings and WPA

Here are tonight’s box score and updated standings from ESPN, video highlights from MLB.com and WPA from Fangraphs.


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees will continue the three-game series against the Rays tomorrow at the Bronx. Luis Severino will be up against Matt Andriese for a 7:05 pm game start.

Game 157: Welcome Back, Aaron Hicks

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Aaron Hicks was activated from the disabled list this morning, and he’ll be batting lead-off tonight. It’s good to see that Joe Girardi isn’t hesitating to maximize Hicks’s opportunities to shake-off the rust of a nearly four-week layoff with the playoffs just around the corner; here’s hoping that Hicks can make the most of it, given his all-around value to the team.

It’s also worth noting that the Yankees magic number to clinch homefield advantage in the Wild Card game is just one, meaning a Yankees win or a Twins loss will seal the deal. The sooner the better, in my mind, so Girardi can allow most everyone to get a bit more rest without the added stress of a Twins run or a Yankees slump.

Jordan Montgomery will take the mound for the Yankees tonight, and here’s the Rays lineup he’ll face. Blake Snell is starting for the Rays, and he’ll square-off against:

  1. Aaron Hicks, CF
  2. Aaron Judge, RF
  3. Gary Sanchez, C
  4. Matt Holliday, DH
  5. Chase Headley, 1B
  6. Starlin Castro, 2B
  7. Todd Frazier, 3B
  8. Clint Frazier, LF
  9. Ronald Torreyes, SS

Tonight’s game will start at 7:05 PM EST, and will be broadcast on YES.

Injury Updates: There’s nothing new to report here. Didi Gregorius was expected to sit today, so it’s nothing more than a day off.

9/26 to 9/28 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

(Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
(Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

The Last Time They Met

Citi Field was the venue the last time these teams met, as a result of Hurricane Irma. The Yankees took two of three from the Rays in Flushing, and helped to create and then take ownership of a late-season meme. Some notes from the series:

  • David Robertson had a phenomenal outing in the first game, coming in in the fifth to bail CC Sabathia out of a two-on, one-out jam with no damage. All told Robertson went 2.2 IP, allowing one hit, no runs, and no walks, while striking out 4.
  • Sonny Gray pitched like an ace in game two – 8 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 9 K. And the Yankees lost 2-1. The less said about this game the better.
  • The third game of the series was one of the more stressful wins in recent memory, with the Yankees struggling to take advantage of a slew of base-runners, and the Rays threatening in nearly every inning. It was a 3-2 victory in the record books, but it was not fun to watch.

Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more fun facts.

Injury Report

The Rays are mostly healthy – better late than never, I suppose. Their only noteworthy players on the disabled list are Matt Duffy, Nathan Eovaldi, and Shawn Tolleson, and none of them have appeared in a single game this season.

Their Story So Far

Tampa Bay is 76-80, and are a loss or a Twins win away from being eliminated from Wild Card contention. They’ve been a largely middle-of-the-pack team board this season, checking in at 11th in the majors in park-adjusted ERA and 15th in wRC+, with their outstanding defense (4th in the majors in defensive efficiency) oftentimes serving as a difference maker. They’re also 20-24 in one-run games, which ranks 21st in the league. You can look at the Rays season from any number of angles, but it all boils down to them being a remarkably average team.

The Yankees are 10-6 against the Rays this year, so they’ve already clinched the season series.

The Lineup We Might See

Manager Kevin Cash seems to play roulette with certain slots in the lineup, but by and large you can expect to see something like this:

  1. Kevin Kiermaier, CF – 276/.338/.455, 15 HR, 14 SB (409 PA)
  2. Lucas Duda, DH -.221/.321/.507, 30 HR, 0 SB (476 PA)
  3. Evan Longoria, 3B – .265/.317/.427, 19 HR, 6 SB (656 PA)
  4. Logan Morrison, 1B – .243/.352/.515, 37 HR, 2 SB (580 PA)
  5. Steven Souza, RF – .236/.344/.459, 30 HR, 16 SB (600 PA)
  6. Corey Dickerson, LF – .278/.322/.487, 26 HR, 4 SB (612 PA)
  7. Wilson Ramos, C – .263/.293/.444, 10 HR, 0 SB (211 PA)
  8. Brad Miller, 2B – .198/.326/.328, 8 HR, 4 SB (396 PA)
  9. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS – .249/.284/.398, 6 HR, 3 SB (265 PA)

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Tuesday (7:05 PM EST): LHP Jordan Montgomery vs. LHP Blake Snell

Snell has had a disappointing and disjointed sophomore season, having spent much of it in the minors as he attempts to learn the finer points of controlling where the baseball is going. His walk rate has dropped by two full percentage points from last year (from 12.7% to 10.7%), but it remains two-plus percentage points worse than league-average (8.5%). He has great stuff and has flashed brilliance for parts of two seasons now, so he shouldn’t be underestimated; but Snell is still very much a work in progress.

Last Outing (vs. CHC on 9/20) – 7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 5 K

Wednesday (7:05 PM EST): RHP Luis Severino vs. RHP Matt Andriese

The Yankees have faced Andriese twice this year. He got the better of them the first time around (6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 5 K), but they solved him the next time out (5 runs in 5 IP). Andriese has been a serviceable fifth starter/up-and-down guy for the Rays this year, pitching to a 4.33 ERA (94 ERA+) in 16 starts.

Last Outing (vs. BAL on 9/21) – 6.0 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 8 K

Thursday (7:05 PM EST): RHP Sonny Gray vs. RHP Alex Cobb

Mike wrote everything you need to know about Cobb – a free agent to be – just last week. Give it a read, won’t you?

Last Outing (vs. BAL on 9/22) – 6.0 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 4 K

The Bullpen

Tampa’s bullpen was something of a horror show in the first half, blowing lead after lead, and allowing small deficits to grow into large ones. The group has done an about-face in the last two months, though, with closer Alex Colome, set-up man Tommy Hunter, and new additions Steve Cishek and Sergio Romo combining for a 1.84 ERA in 107.2 IP since the All-Star break. They’re a bit shallow beyond that big four, but this is a group that ranks 3rd in the majors in bWAR in the second half, and 5th in WPA.

Who (Or What) To Watch

Alex Cobb may well be auditioning for the Yankees on Thursday, and a strong final start could help his cause a bit.

Taking a more Yankee-centric approach this time around, it’s also worth mentioning that some scoreboard watching is in order. A win for the Yankees or a loss for the Twins will wrap-up homefield advantage for the Yankees in the Wild Card game, and that’s significant. The Yankees are 47-28 at home and 40-41 on the road, which isn’t too far off from their split last year. This is a team that utilizes Yankee Stadium to the fullest, so we should have one more cause for celebration during this series.

Nine goals for the final week of the regular season now that the Yankees have clinched a postseason spot

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Over the weekend the Yankees clinched a postseason spot — heck of a rebuilding transitioning year, eh? — and pretty soon they’ll lock down homefield advantage in the Wild Card Game. The magic number to do that is one because the Yankees hold the tiebreaker over the Twins. The Yankees are mathematically alive in the AL East race, but forget that. Wild Card Game it is.

Because the Yankees clinched with a week to spare in the regular season, they have the luxury of using these last few regular season games to prepare for the postseason. Line up the rotation, rest the regulars, give those bumps and bruises a chance to heal … that kinda stuff. The obvious stuff every team hopes they get a chance to do before playing in October.

“I think the physical part of it is really important for our players so that they are strong going into the playoffs, and they’re not beat up and they feel rested. That’s really important,” said Joe Girardi yesterday. “There’s a balance there because you want everyone to feel confident and feel good about where they are going into the playoffs … Going into the playoffs, you want guys to feel confident and feel that they’re right where they want to be.”

Resting players and lining up the postseason rotation — right now Luis Severino is lined up to start the Wild Card Game and Sonny Gray is lined up to start Game One of the ALDS, so that part is done already — are the obvious big picture goals this week. What else do the Yankees need to accomplish before their season is on the line in the Wild Card Game one week from today? Here are nine other goals for the Yankees this week, in no particular order.

Clinch homefield advantage in the Wild Card Game

A formality with the magic number sitting at one, yes, but the Yankees have to actually do it at some point. They can’t go into cruise control just yet. Clinch homefield advantage and do it soon. The sooner the better. Lock into the top Wild Card spot and be done with it. That’s not something you want to let linger, you know?

Try to get Betances straightened out

(Presswire)
Dellin. (Presswire)

I gotta say, I was pretty surprised to see Dellin Betances go five days between appearances last week. It’s not like Girardi didn’t have chances to use him. The Yankees won by eight runs Wednesday and lost by seven runs Friday. Want to get Dellin straightened out in low-leverage spots? Well, there were two low-leverage spots, and Betances was nowhere to be found. Hmmm.

The Yankees are a potentially dominant postseason team because their bullpen is so deep with power arms, so they figure to have the advantage in the late innings pretty much every night. Betances is a big part of that bullpen, and the Yankees need him to be at his best in October. Dellin’s not going to right the ship by sitting in the bullpen. Heck, the longer the sits, the worse he gets. He has to get enough work this week to try to figure things out.

“I think best case scenario is we’ll be able to get Dellin in three — maybe four — games this week if we can to get him going,” said Girardi. “If you feel like he’s going and you don’t need to push him as hard, you can do that too. He’s important to us. Much like (Aroldis Chapman) — Chappy had a little period where he was struggling, and we got him going. We need to do the same with Dellin.”

Let Green pitch back-to-back days

With Betances still having control problems, Chad Green has taken over as the third option in the bullpen behind Chapman and David Robertson. You could argue Green is the best option out of the bullpen, though that’s a waste of time. They’re all pretty great. Girardi clearly trusts Green and he’s going to see plenty of high-leverage work in the postseason. Lately Girardi has been using him as a one-inning setup man, which is kinda new.

Anyway, because he’s done the multi-inning reliever thing pretty much all season, Green hasn’t pitched back-to-back days much. Just once, in fact. He threw 14 pitches in a perfect inning on July 22nd, then threw 37 pitches in 2.1 perfect innings the next day. Green hasn’t pitched back-to-back days since. Should the Yankees advance to the ALDS, they’re probably going to need to use Green back-to-back at some point, and you don’t want that to be a new experience. Get his feet wet. Use him two straight days at some point this week so he knows what’s up.

Keep running Bird out there

(Presswire)
Bird. (Presswire)

For the first time all season, Greg Bird really looks comfortable at the plate. He’s gone 6-for-14 (.429) with three doubles and two home runs in his last four games — he was 5-for-40 (.125) in his first 14 games this month — and you want him to keep building on that. I know this is the time to rest players and all that, but it shouldn’t be for Bird. He was out too long earlier this season. Play him every game the rest of the way — against righties and lefties — and let him continue to find his stroke. Bird can be a impact hitter and provide a big time boost to the lineup.

Let Sanchez catch Montgomery

For whatever reason Austin Romine has become Jordan Montgomery‘s personal catcher. Romine has caught Montgomery’s last ten starts now, and I guess this is why:

  • Montgomery with Romine: 3.78 ERA (4.31 FIP) in 102.1 innings
  • Montgomery with Sanchez: 5.19 ERA (4.35 FIP) in 26 innings

That’s all well and good, but here’s the thing: Romine can’t play in the postseason. He just can’t. Girardi twice started Jose Molina in the World Series so he could catch A.J. Burnett, but Romine is no Molina. Molina was at least a great defensive catcher, plus he’d occasionally run into a fastball for a double. Romine does neither of those things. (Plus Burnett was much more important to the 2009 Yankees than Montgomery is to the 2017 Yankees.)

As things stand, Montgomery will not be in the postseason rotation. He might not even be in the postseason bullpen. But! If the Yankees need a replacement starter due to injury at some point, Montgomery figures to get the call over Jaime Garcia, and he and Gary Sanchez need to be on the same page. The postseason is no time for personal catchers, especially with your fifth starter. Montgomery is starting tonight and could start Game 162 as well. Let Sanchez catch him so they can get reacquainted. You don’t want them paired up for the first time in three months in a postseason game.

Play Hicks as much as humanly possible

Earlier today the Yankees activated Aaron Hicks off the disabled list, so he will be in uniform tonight. And now that Hicks is back, the Yankees should play him as much as possible. Basically every game from here on out. Even if Hicks is slated to be a bench player in the postseason, it wouldn’t take much to push him into regular duty and the Yankees should want him ready in case that happens. He’s missed a lot of time and needs the at-bats.

Girardi said yesterday the Yankees plan to give the regular outfielders a rest this week — they’ve played a ton the last month or so — and that creates the perfect opportunity for Hicks. Play him every game, move him around the outfield as needed, give the regulars rest. Heck, bat Hicks first or second too, so he could maybe get that one extra at-bat each game. Every little bit helps. We saw Hicks be an impact player earlier this year. After the long layoff, giving him as much playing time as possible to help get him back to being that impact player is a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned.

Make sure Warren gets all the way back

Warren. (Presswire)
Warren. (Presswire)

As with Hicks, the Yankees will get Adam Warren back from injury this week, and they need to make sure he’s on track prior to the postseason. Warren, who hasn’t missed nearly as much time as Hicks in the second half, will throw a simulated game today, and figures to be activated as soon as tomorrow if that goes well. The big name late-inning guys get all the attention, but Warren is a really important part of the bullpen as the Swiss Army knife reliever who can get one out in the tight spot or throw two innings in the middle of the game or fill-in as the setup man for a day. He’s an underappreciated weapon for Girardi and the Yankees want to make sure Warren is ready to go come October.

Test Wade as a pinch-runner

With Jacoby Ellsbury playing his way back into the starting lineup and the Yankees not bringing in an Eric Young Jr. or Rico Noel type to pinch-run this month, Tyler Wade is the obvious designated pinch-runner candidate for the postseason. And maybe the Yankees decide they don’t need that guy. Even if they don’t, it would be smart to give Wade a bunch of pinch-running opportunities this week. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but coming off the bench cold and stealing a base in a big spot is not easy. Wade’s been an everyday player pretty much his entire life. Getting him prepared for a potential pinch-runner role makes sense even if the Yankees aren’t planning to carry him on the postseason roster. One injury could land him on the postseason bench.

Win at least three more games

In the grand scheme of things, there is nothing important about this. Heck, once they clinch the top wildcard spot, you could argue the Yankees should lose as much possible to improve their draft position! I won’t do it, but I’m sure someone out there is thinking it. Anyway, I want the Yankees to win at least three more games because damn, a 90-win season sure would be sweet. Lots of people, myself included, pegged this team for 82-84 wins. Somewhere in that neighborhood. Plenty of pundits were picking them to finish under-.500 for the first time in an eternity. It’s not happening. Seeing the Yankees join the 90-win club for the first time since 2012 sure would be a nice cherry on top of an otherwise wildly successful rebuilding season.

Thoughts during the homestretch of the regular season

(Adam Hunger/Getty)
(Adam Hunger/Getty)

The Yankees, as we all know, are chasing the AL East division title and, as much as they’d hate to admit it, solidifying their status as the top AL Wild Card team. The Red Sox look like clear AL East winners and the Yankees seem to be gearing up for the AL Wild Card game (most likely at home). Anyways, here are some thoughts I’ve got.

1. The Dellin BetancesAroldis Chapman duo was ballyhooed all offseason to be a cream of the crop eighth-ninth inning bullpen duo. Both of them are not having bad seasons, but the performance has not reached the expectations. As of now, Dellin Betances has a 3.02 ERA in 56.2 IP. While he’s still striking out hitters at an exorbitant rate (15.53 K/9 IP), his walk rate has almost doubled from last year (3.45 to 6.83 BB/9 IP, yeesh). Chapman? This is his worst season as a big leaguer since 2012. He has a 3.50 ERA and a 2.68 FIP – both of them higher than marks from 2012-16 seasons. Both relievers have been inconsistent all season, Jekyll and Hyde-mode. What is interesting, however, is the pattern of how they did it. Take a look at their monthly stats:

April
Betances: 8.0 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 5 BB, 14 K, 1.13 ERA
Chapman: 9.1 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 15 K,  0.96 ERA

May
Betances: 9.1 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 18 K, 0.00 ERA
Chapman: 3.1 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 10.80 ERA

June
Betances: 8.0 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 9 BB, 15 K, 4.50 ERA
Chapman: 4.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 1.93 ERA

July
Betances: 12.1 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 13 BB, 21 K, 4.26 ERA
Chapman: 13.0 IP, 11 H, 4 ER, 6 BB, 16 K, 2.77 ERA

August
Betances: 12.0 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 6 BB, 17 K, 1.50 ERA
Chapman: 8.0 IP, 8 H, 8 ER, 6 BB, 8 K, 9.00 ERA

September
Betances: 7.2 IP, 5 H, 6 ER, 6 BB, 14 K, 7.04 ERA
Chapman: 9.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 13 K, 0.00 ERA

As you see, they’ve been pretty much see-sawing it after April. If the Yankees want to go deep into the postseason, they can’t afford to have one of them be off again. Imagine if they were dominant together for one or two more months of the season. Given that the Yankees have lost a lot of one-run games this season, we could be talking about the AL East division-leading team. What’s giving me hope for Chapman is that he seems to have found the root of his problems and fixed it. Betances? It’ll take a few good outings in a row for Yankee fans to feel comfortable seeing him on mound in cutthroat October situations.

2. The last time the Yankees made the postseason was 2015. It’s kind of staggering to think how different the team was only two seasons ago. For instance, they had guys like A-Rod and Mark Teixeira playing vital roles most of the season. We had no idea what was coming with guys like Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino and Aaron Judge. Also unlike that top AL Wild Card team, this likely-top AL Wild Card team seems to have a much brighter forecast in October. While momentum in September does not necessarily correlate with how the team fares in playoffs, the 2015 team did not have a lot of good things going for them towards the AL Wild Card game. Teixeira was declared out for rest of the season after a painful bone bruise. In September/October 2015, the Yankees were 14-17 and got swept by the Orioles in a three-game series to end the regular season. Two years later, at this moment of the season, the Yankees are on upswing of things. They are 16-6 so far in September and, barring a late-season losing streak at home, they’ll head to the AL Wild Card (assuming that’s what they’ll end up doing) in quite a positive vibe.

(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

3. I’m wondering if Todd Frazier‘s in the Yankees’ plans for 2018. Dude’s had a fine September (went into yesterday’s hitting .207/.390/.569 for a .959 OPS) and has commented that he wants to be back. He’s certainly a productive player. He gets on base, can hit for power and displays really nice third base defense. Those aspects alone should give the team some thoughts on offering him a contract before free agency season hits. However, I don’t know if they would offer him anything more than a one or two-year deal. Maybe Frazier could take a one-year deal and try to re-build his value to what it was back when he was a Home Run Derby-winning, top-tier slugger. *If* he can do that, that would be a win-win for both the player and the team – Yankees would get solid production before letting Gleyber Torres take over full-time and Frazier could make a good amount of money from some other team after 2018. However, it’s too bold to assume that kind of theory to come to life. Him, Chase Headley, Didi Gregorius, etc. could very well play the role of mentor to Torres when the top prospect comes up to the bigs next season. Another aspect that he could be valuable is what him and Headley have been able to do in 2017 – alternating positions and filling in hole at the first base if (or when) Greg Bird becomes unavailable. I would personally very much welcome it if Frazier were to sign a short-term contract. If it will be something like three years, hopefully it won’t be backloaded. There’s always risks and careful calculations when making decisions like this. Whatever the Yankees decide to do with Frazier, they will give it some deep thought looking at a big picture, I’m sure.

For what it’s worth, Frazier has provided above-average run production with a good glove for the past few seasons. He’s also walked quite more this season than he had in his entire career. Next year will be his age-32 season so he’s presumably got few more years of keeping up current level of performance. So far with the Yankees, Frazier’s had a .803 OPS. That figure would be the highest by a non-A-Rod Yankee third baseman since… 2002 Robin Ventura (.826 OPS). Boy, that’s awhile ago.

4. Joe Girardi was recently asked about kneeling during the national anthem, Donald Trump’s comments on the NFL players, and whether he would visit the White House if the Yankees were to win the World Series. If you don’t live under the rock, you know the deal. Randy Miller of NJ.com wrote an article about it and Girardi, I think, played it as safe as he can.

“It’s not something that I would choose to do,” Girardi said Sunday before the Yankees’ game with the Toronto Blue Jays. “It’s my opinion. I’m entitled to my opinion and others are entitled to their own opinion. There’s going to be a lot of things in this world that you may not agree with. I think it’s a player’s right. That’s the country we live in. It’s a player’s right. You don’t necessarily have to agree with it, but it’s what people do.”

Girardi never really struck me as a hugely political guy and he probably was instructed by the front office to “say the right things.” That could mean a lot of different things. But from what I can decipher, it seems like he worded his statement in a way that would not incite loud reactions from the both sides. It just sounded like a “let’s get this question over with and talk about baseball” kind of thing. This quote, in particular, really struck me as one that reflected his tone: “Those are my personal reflections and I’m not going to necessarily dive into it because that just opens up a huge can of worms and allows you to write stories for weeks.”

I personally stand on the side of the players protesting. That being said, I would be disappointed if the Yankees choose to visit the White House if they win the 2017 World Series. I know CC Sabathia himself has said that he won’t go at all and it’s possible that he’s not alone in the Yankees on that side. However, it is easy to assume that the baseball locker room culture is not as racially diverse as the NFL teams, where team-wide protests took place Sunday. Chris Archer of the Rays has spoken out that he would not be comfortable voicing his opinion within his own clubhouse, which is a damn shame. Only 7.7 percent of all MLB players are African-Americans and, the odds are that they share the locker room with many players with conservative backgrounds. Gotta understand where Archer is coming from. That makes what Bruce Maxwell did much more gutsy and impressive.

Anyways, didn’t mean to get too political here. Politics have been a big part of my life since I first moved to U.S. so it’s hard not to think about societal + sports concerns. And, as you could tell from this past NFL Sunday, these two subjects really do go hand-on-hand, whether you like it or not.

(Rob Carr/Getty Images)
(Rob Carr/Getty Images)

5. Alright, something lighter here. You can make a case for AL MVP for any of these five guys right now: Aaron Judge, Jose Altuve, Chris Sale, Mike Trout and Jose Ramirez. Besides Trout, all of them play for a playoff-bound team and have been playing some of the best baseball of their lives. From what I can gather though, it looks like it could come down to a Altuve-Judge match. Trout, the best player of this generation, is posting career-high peripherals but that missed time from thumb injury is really going to hurt his case. Ramirez is putting up stupendous numbers but his basic stats aren’t strong as Judge or Altuve’s. Chris Sale is the current fWAR leader in all of the baseball but his hype train has slowed down a bit in the second half and it became unclear if he would even win the AL Cy Young Award. (Corey Kluber really, really stepped it up as of late, didn’t he? You could also make an MVP case for the Indians righty as well.) Altuve and Judge both get love for their basic and sabermetric stats and seem like the two strongest candidates for the 2017 AL MVP award. Depends on what metric you look at, they’ve both been productive in almost equal way – just in different manners. Judge, as you know, hits for massive power, a decent average, strikes out a lot, etc., and Altuve is a Swiss Army knife kind of guy who hits for high average, plays scrappy defense, steals bases, etc. Unfortunately for Judge, his two-month cold streak will seem to work against him. He went from a clear MVP favorite hitting .330/.440/.700~ish in early-July to .270/.410/.570 by early-September. That’s still a great line! But during that period, from July 8 to September 9 (53 games), Judge hit for a .186 average, 9 HRs and struck out 84 times. And you know some writer are going to reference that when they write to explain their MVP votes.

As you know, however, from September 10 on, Judge has been on fire and could be making a case for some MVP votes. In those 14 games, he’s hit eleven home runs with a 1.678 OPS. I assume he could be extra-wired for the last home stretch with a lot of fun things in stake – the rookie home run record, the Yankees AL East run (if not, clinching the top AL Wild Card spot) and, of course, making the last push for his MVP case. He may not talk about it, but I bet it is in his head somewhere. He’s been a better home hitter (1.150 OPS) than road (.910 OPS) so get excited for the next six games! My question is, how much of a push push would he need to make the last six games to earn some votes? I think, unless Judge goes absolutely ballistic (something like, reaching 55 home runs), Altuve will still be the favorite. Getting to 50 home runs (because what a nice, round number that is for a Major League rookie!) could help, but Altuve is leading the league in hits, batting average, and has arguably been the best member of the top 2 team of the league. Also, for someone his size, boy he’s getting every bit and inch out of the talent that’s given. Judge has a clear flaw in his game (strikeouts) but Altuve is almost flawless. Besides that he’s really, really undersized among his MLB peers. I know there are many ways to spin to argue that Judge has been more valuable than Altuve but, at least for this moment, the consensus seems to point to the latter. Obviously it would be really cool to see Judge be the first AL player to win both ROY and MVP since Ichiro Suzuki. We’ll see how it goes though.

Monday Night Open Thread

The internet tells me 18,852 men have played Major League Baseball. Aaron Judge has now hit more home runs as a rookie than the other 18,851. Judge swatted his 49th and 50th home runs of the season this afternoon — would’ve been his 50th and 51st if not for that stupid triple! — breaking Mark McGwire’s rookie record. Big Mac hit 49 with the A’s in 1987. What an unbelievable season for Aaron. This is so damn fun.

Here is an open thread for the rest of the evening. The Mets are playing tonight and MLB Network is showing two regional games. The Cowboys and Cardinals are the Monday Night Football Game, plus all three local hockey teams are playing preseason games, if that’s your thing. It’s my thing. Sometimes, anyway. Talk about anything here that isn’t politics or religion. Thanks in advance.

Judge hits 49th and 50th home runs, breaks McGwire’s rookie record in 11-3 win over Royals

Is baseball fun? Yes, baseball is extremely fun. The Yankees had to play a makeup game with the Royals on Monday, and they turned that makeup game into an 11-3 win. Aaron Judge made rookie history along the way. The Yankees will clinch homefield advantage in the Wild Card Game with one more win or one more Twins loss. Whatever comes first.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Move Over, Big Mac
Holy crap Aaron Judge has hit more home runs than any other rookie in baseball history. That is insane. What would you have been happy with from him this season? I’d have signed up for .250/.340/.450 with 25 dingers in a heartbeat going into Spring Training. Instead, Judge is hitting .283/.414/.620 (169 wRC+) overall this year, and on Monday afternoon he smacked his 49th and 50th — 49th and 50th! — home runs of the season, tying then breaking Mark McGwire’s rookie record.

The record tying blast was a classic Judge at-bat. He worked a full count — going into the game, his 167 plate appearances with a full count were far and away the most in baseball (Edwin Encarnacion was second with 145) — against Royals rookie Jake Junis, then drove a fastball at the top of the zone the other way into the right field seats for a two-run home run. Perfect. The dinger gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead in the inning.

Four innings later, after the Yankees increased their lead to 6-3, Judge went deep again, this time to break McGwire’s record. Trevor Cahill started Judge with two curveballs, one for a ball and one for a swinging strike. He set up a changeup with a high fastball for ball two, but the changeup was a little too up in the zone, and Judge roped it out to left field. One dinger to right, one dinger to left.

That is now seven home runs in the last seven games for Judge, and 13 home runs in 22 games in September. Remember his post-All-Star Game slump? I do. It was ugly for a while there. Safe to say Judge has snapped out of it though. He’s crushing the ball to all fields and he looks confident at the plate. He looks like First Half Aaron Judge, and it is beautiful to see. With the Yankees at home the rest of the regular season, Aaron needs to hear M! V! P! chants every at-bat. Make it happen.

Six Good Innings, One Bad Inning
CC Sabathia went from six shutout innings to a bare minimum quality start real quick Monday. It took eight pitches, in fact. Sabathia cruised through the first six innings, holding the Royals scoreless on three hits and a walk. Kansas City had just one runner make it to third base and only three get as far as second base in those six innings. CC was on cruise control.

The wheels came off a bit in the seventh inning. Joe Girardi sent Sabathia out for the seventh with a 6-0 lead and his pitch count at 72, and hey, that’s what I wouldn’t done. Eric Hosmer started that seventh inning with a single, then Salvador Perez got the Royals on the board with a high and far two-run home run to left field. Sabathia caught a little too much of the plate with a high changeup. Blah. Mike Moustakas then followed with a solo homer deep to right field. That ended Sabathia’s afternoon and cut the lead to 6-3.

Sabathia’s final line: 6 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K on 80 pitches. He was better than that line indicates though. Sabathia faced 24 batters and it wasn’t until batters 22, 23, and 24 that the Royals really started to square him up. Next time Girardi should look into his managerial crystal ball so he knows to pull his not at all struggling starter before things start to fall apart. What are they paying this guy for? Geez. (I kid, I kid.)

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Tack-On Runs
Fortunately, the Yankees had built up plenty of breathing room before Sabathia’s little seventh inning implosion. They scored their first run of the afternoon in the very first inning. Brett Gardner dunked a leadoff single to right-center, Judge flew out to deep center field (even his outs are hard-hit these days), Gary Sanchez poked a double into the right field corner, and Didi Gregorius got the run home with a grounder to first base. The Yankees were up 1-0 only 12 pitches into the bottom of the first. Judge then made it 3-0 in the third.

The sixth inning is when the Yankees really broke things open. Gregorius stroked a one-out single to left then, while at first, he tripped on the base and fell down when he stepped back on a pickoff throw. It looked kinda bad at first, but Didi was laughing at himself the entire time and stayed in the game with no problem. I know this because he scored all the way from first base on Matt Holliday‘s double to left field to stretch the lead to 4-0. Losing Gregorius to an injury on a stupid pickoff throw would be awful. Thankfully, it didn’t happen.

Know who else is red hot aside from Judge? Greg Bird. He followed Holliday’s double with a two-run home run into the second deck in right field to give the Yankees a 6-0 lead and officially blow this one open. Bird is now 6-for-14 (.429) with three doubles and two homers in his last four games, and, most importantly, he looks more comfortable at the plate than he has all season. Took a while to get over last year’s shoulder surgery and this year’s ankle surgery, but it appears Bird is now over them, and not a moment too soon.

Two home runs for Judge and one home run for Bird must’ve had Sanchez feeling a little left out, so he added a home run as well. The crowd was still giving Judge a standing ovation following his 50th home run curtain call — that was the loudest I’ve heard Yankee Stadium since Alex Rodriguez‘s farewell game last year — when Sanchez lined a dinger into the left field seats for an 8-3 lead. Third time this month Judge and Sanchez have gone back-to-back, I do believe. Once against the Rangers, once against the Orioles, and once against the Royals (I think).

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

But wait! There’s more. The Yankees added a three more runs in the eighth inning thanks to a silly Torreyes hit — a bloop dunked in along the right field line, then the ball got away from Alcides Escobar when he tried to apply the tag at second base, allowing Toe to get to third — and a Gardner double into the corner. Gregorius then singled in another run and Holliday plated another with a sac fly. Judge had a chance to hit his third homer of the game that inning, but alas, he was walked for the 120th time this season. L-O-L. Love this team, guys. Love them with all of your baseball heart.

Leftovers
Judge, Bird, and Sanchez combined to go 6-for-13 (.462) with four home runs, one double, and two walks. First time — and hopefully not the last time — those three have gone deep in the same game. Three hits for Sanchez, Gregorius, and Torreyes. Two hits for Gardner and Judge. The wraparound 9-1-2-3-4 portion of the lineup went a combined 13-for-22 (.591) with three doubles and four homers. That’ll do.

Chad Green replaced Sabathia after the seventh inning mini-meltdown and pitched around a walk. He struck out one and now has 102 strikeouts in 67.1 innings this season. Remember, he started the season in minors. Green didn’t play his first MLB game until May 9th this year. David Robertson, who was already warmed up before Judge and Sanchez provided insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh, threw a clean eighth and Tommy Kahnle handled the ninth. Nice and easy.

And finally, thanks to today’s game, Judge has now homered against every single AL team this season. Well, except the Yankees. The Royals completed the set. I have no idea how to look this up, but hitting a home run against every other team in the league — again: against every other team in the league! — sounds incredibly hard to do. At least in the expansion era.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head over to ESPN for the box score — their redesigned box scores suck so much and I haven’t yet found an alternative to my liking — and updated standings, and MLB.com for the video highlights. We have a Bullpen Workload page. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Royals are heading out now that the makeup game is over, and the Rays are coming to town for a three-game series. One Yankees win will eliminate Tampa Bay from postseason contention. Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery are the scheduled starting pitchers for Tuesday night’s opener.